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Clarke Nursing Alumna Fights COVID-19 on Front Lines

By Clarke News  |  July 6, 2020
Clarke graduate Bobbie Lona '15

Bobbie Lona Nienkark is a 2015 nursing graduate from Clarke who is studying to earn her DNP. She grew up in rural Maquoketa, Iowa, reciting the 4H pledge “I pledge my head for clearer thinking, my heart for greater loyalty, my hands for larger service, and my health for better living, for my club, my community, my country, my world.”

Nienkark says that nursing is her passion. “I grew up very close with my family. My grandmother, Darlene Franzen, carried a legacy she passed down to my mother, and she to me, as nursing was never a conscious career choice.” After graduating from Clarke, Nienkark began her career in the emergency room setting, working with experienced nurses who traveled to different hospitals as “travel nurses.” The idea of learning more about other cultures and going to areas that really needed help motivated her to become a traveling nurse herself. She is currently working in an underprivileged area in Brooklyn, NY. She has had experiences beyond her wildest imaginations and been challenged greatly during the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). She spends long shifts, sometimes more than 14 hours, wearing full-body protection as she tests and cares for those who have contracted COVID-19.

“It breaks my heart,” she said. Many of the patients she serves wouldn’t have been able to seek medical help at all if it weren’t for her hospital, which the community has rallied to raise money to keep it open. Throughout the months when COVID-19 had affected a large population of her local community, the emergency room was overcrowded, and the staff overworked. She said she tries to remain positive through all of it. “We are all in this together, and this, too, shall pass. I would encourage individuals to take preventative measures. Food is medicine, so be mindful of what you put into your body. Also, stop smoking, wash your hands, and wear masks. Every little measure helps.”

She went on to emphasize the importance of preventing the spread of COVID-19 by remaining at home when possible, avoiding gatherings, and staying out of the supermarket unless necessary. “We are in the seventh month of the year, and we are still seeing positive cases. I believe it will be later than September before life is back to any normalcy. However, it depends on the population, our neighbors, our communities, and how hard they are willing to work to stop the spread of the virus. The world is not yet healed. Clarke University’s nursing program taught me that prevention is key, and I’ve witnessed that first-hand through fighting this virus.”

Despite Nienkark’s every effort to remain safe, she contracted the COVID-19 virus herself through her work as a front-line nurse. She experienced symptoms of anxiety, heart palpitations, and the inability to walk. Her eyes went black, she felt dizzy, and she was short of breath. She found herself sleeping 16 hours per day and unmotivated to eat or even take deep breaths. Her advice after that experience is, “If you do contract the virus, don’t stop moving because the virus is aggressive and will take over your body. Even if you feel like you can’t move, get up, walk around, breathe deeply, and keep going. You can overcome it.”

Read Nienkark’s story of fighting the battle of COVID-19 as a healthcare professional, surviving the virus herself, and working as a front-line nurse. She was highlighted in the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press here.